U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) (P.L. 110-378)

Provides foundational support to address youth and young adult homelessness across the country. RHYA funds three key pillars of intervention to help homeless youth: street outreach, emergency shelters for minors and transitional living programs for youth between the ages of 16 and 22. Additionally, a national communications system (National Runaway Safeline) and national training and technical assistant enter (Runaway and Homeless Youth Training and Technical Assistance Center) are created by this act.

Current Status

RHYA, usually reauthorized on time, expired September 30, 2013. NN4Y seeks its immediate reauthorization and leads a national RHYA reauthorization working group of 35 organizations. RHYA has never been funded at higher than $115 million and the last specified funding level was $165 million per year and is currently authorized at, “such sums as may be necessary.” Because of the severe lack of resources only 25% of applicants receive funding, in spite of scoring 100, 99, 98 and 97 on grant applications. Also, the RHYA programs turn away large numbers of homeless youth every year:

  • Runaway and Homeless Youth Act funded Basic Center Programs have turned away 14,855 youth since FY 2010 due to the lack of an available bed.
  • Runaway and Homeless Youth Act funded Transitional Living Programs have turned away 24,488 youth since FY 2010 due to the lack of an available bed.

Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) (P.L. 113-65)

Provides states with funding to provide services to youth who are expected to age out of foster care as well as former foster care youth ages 18 to 21. Funds from the program can be used for helping with education, employment, financial management, housing, emotional support and assured connections to caring adults for older youth in foster care. Activities and programs include, but are not limited to, help with education, employment, financial management, housing, emotional support and assured connections to caring adults for older youth in foster care.

Current Status

CFCIP is currently funded at a level of $140 million in mandatory funds and ETV vouchers are funded at $45 million.

Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351)

Increased federal funds available to states who choose to extend assistance to foster youth up until age 21, when those youth meet certain education, training or work requirements or has a medical condition that prevents them from participating in those activities. Services can include housing assistance, vocational and college help, and counseling.

Current Status

This funding goes to states and is based on claims filed by states for federal reimbursement.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L.  111-148)

The Affordable Care Act has created a stronger safety net for unaccompanied homeless youth by expanding access to health care insurance and ensuring parity for behavioral health treatment.1

Over 42 million adolescents (ages 10 to 19) live in the United States, making up roughly 14 percent of all Americans.2  About 9.8 percent of youth ages 12-17 lack health insurance,3 and 4.7 percent have no usual source of health care.4 The Affordable Care Act includes several provisions that are expected to improve access to healthcare for older adolescents and young adults. An estimated 4.2 million uninsured adolescents ages 10-19 will be eligible to obtain health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act in 2014.5

All states must cover youth up to age 19 with family incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level through the Medicaid program.  Prior to the enactment of the ACA, in the vast majority of states, youth had to prove they were disabled and poor in order to access Medicaid health insurance coverage.  This created a barrier for homeless youth who often lacked documentation and proper assessment of their mental health disabilities or chemical addiction.  Now service providers can assist homeless youth in signing up for health insurance by merely offering documentation that the youth is living in poverty.

Furthermore, before the ACA, many health plans and issuers could remove adult children from their parents’ policies because of their age, despite their status as students or as young adults residing with their parents. The ACA requires issuers that offer dependent coverage to make the coverage available until youth reach the age of 26. Additionally, effective in 2010, the ACA prohibited insurance companies from excluding children (through age 18) from coverage based on preexisting conditions. The act also extended dependent coverage under a parent’s policy for young adults up to age 26.

The ACA requires states to maintain March 2010 eligibility levels in their Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs through 2019. In addition, beginning in 2014, states must provide Medicaid coverage for youth who are aging out of foster care until they reach age 26. Beginning in 2014, the ACA also requires states to conduct outreach to vulnerable and underserved populations, including unaccompanied homeless youth, and enroll eligible individuals in Medicaid and CHIP (42 U.S.C. § 1396w-3(b)(1)(F)). Additional benefits which are relevant to adolescents include:

  • Habilitative services are particularly relevant for children and adolescents with developmental disorders.
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, are subject to federal parity requirements. Based on the 2010-2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 994,000 youth ages 12-17 (4 percent) needed but did not receive treatment for alcohol use in the past year and 1,070,000 youth (4.3 percent) needed but did not receive treatment for illicit drug use in the past year.6

Title IV-E Federal Foster Care Program

Administered by state and local public child welfare agencies to help provide safe and stable out-of-home care for children until the children are safely returned home, placed permanently with adoptive families or placed in other planned arrangements for permanency. The program is authorized by Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, as amended, and implemented under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 45 CFR parts 1355, 1356, and 1357.

Funding is awarded by formula as an open-ended entitlement grant and is contingent upon an approved title IV-E plan to administer or supervise the administration of the program. Funds are available for monthly maintenance payments for the daily care and supervision of eligible children; administrative costs to manage the program; training of staff and foster care providers; recruitment of foster parents and costs related to the design, implementation and operation of a state-wide data collection system.

The Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Projects was created when The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, P.L. 112-34 was signed into law September 30, 2011.  These Title IV-E waivers are for fiscal years 2012-2014 and waive certain requirements of title IV-E and IV-B of the Social Security Act.  The waiver offers greater flexibility in program design and service delivery. States that want to participate in this demonstration project must apply and be approved by the Children’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Some states with Title IV-E waivers have used their flexibility fund prevention, independent living arrangements, and systems-level interventions.

U.S. Department of Education (ED)

McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) (CFDA No. 84.196)

Created to remove barriers to the enrollment, attendance, and success of homeless children and youth in school. It establishes a requirement for all state educational agencies to designate an Office of State Coordinator to develop and implement a state plan, including data collection, and for all local educational agencies to designate a local liaison to identify and support homeless children and youth and ensure their ability to enroll in school. Dedicated exclusively to homeless children and youth, formula grants are made to the 50 states, tribes and territories based on each state’s share of Title I, Part A, funds. EHCY provides assistance to states to:

  • Provide technical assistance to alllocal education agencies (LEAs) to ensure compliance with the Act’s requirements for school stability, transportation, immediate enrollment, and dispute resolution.
  • Make competitive subgrants to local education agencies (LEAs): to support the education of homeless children. LEAs use these funds for outreach and identification, enrollment assistance, transportation assistance, school records transfer, immunization referrals, tutoring, counseling, school supplies, assessment, professional development for educators, and referrals for community services targeted to homeless students.
  • Require successful awards to include some sort of formal agreement between the LEAs and the local RHY providers (if there is one), minimally a Memorandum of Agreement that encourages the LEAs to support, if not financially, then at least in collaboration and communication with at least one local RHY Provider on how to ensure homeless youth have access to RHY resources and services, including housing.

Current Status

EHCY was last reauthorized in 2002 and in FY 15 was funded at $65.042 million. Despite an 85% increase in the number of homeless children and youth identified in public schools since 2006-2007, funding has remained flat for the EHCY program. Due to the low funding levels only 22% of school districts in the United States receive EHCY money.

Homeless Youth Certification for FAFSA

In September of 2007, President Bush signed into law the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-84). Included within this legislation are amendments to expand the definition of independent student in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to include:

  1. unaccompanied homeless youth;
  2. youth who are in foster care at any time after the age of 13 or older, and;
  3. youth who are emancipated minors or are in legal guardianships as determined by an appropriate court in the individual’s state of residence.

The legislation allows youth to be considered independent students if they are verified as unaccompanied and homeless during the school year in which the application is submitted, or as unaccompanied, at risk of homelessness, and self-supporting. Verification must be made by one of the following:

  1. a McKinney-Vento Act school district liaison;
  2. a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development homeless assistance program director or their designee;
  3. a Runaway and Homeless Youth Act program director or their designee, or;
  4. a financial aid administrator.

The law thus helps to remove barriers to accessing financial aid for unaccompanied youth in the year in which they experienced homelessness, and in subsequent years, provided they are still unaccompanied, self-supporting, and at risk of homelessness.

Current Status

U.S. Department of Education has defined homeless youth as up to age 21, which is not specified in statute. That has created a “gap” for unaccompanied homeless youth trying to finish college who are 22 and 23 because until you are 24 years of age, you are not considered an independent student and therefore, not required to submit parental tax information in the FAFSA.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (P.L. 100-77)

Funds local, regional, and state homeless assistance programs through the Continuum of Care (CoC) process. A CoC is a geographical administrative unit through which federal homeless assistance funds are distributed and through which homeless assistance providers in a specific geographic area work together to apply for federal funding. HUD ranks the applications and provides funding based on the quality of the application, the performance of the local homeless assistance system, the need for homeless assistance, and the local rankings of individual programs. Funding can be used for permanent and supportive housing, transitional housing, and services. Some funding is also distributed to communities through the Emergency Solutions Grants program.

Current Status

FY 15 funding level of $2.135 billion, a $30 million increase from FY 2014 funding.

Family Unification Program (FUP), Housing Choice Voucher Program

Provides an excellent formula for local level partnerships between public agencies and social service providers. HUD and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are encouraged to use FUP as a model for the creation of Memoranda of Understanding that facilitate resource sharing and relationship development between agencies at the local level. Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs) are provided to two different populations under the FUP:7

  1. Families for whom the lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in:
    1. The imminent placement of the family’s child or children in out-of-home care, or
    2. The delay in the discharge of the child or children to the family from out-of-home care.

There is no time limitation on FUP family vouchers.

  1. Youth at least 18 years old and not more than 21 years old who left foster care at age 16 or older and who lack adequate housing. FUP vouchers used by youth are limited, by statute to 18 months of housing assistance.

FUP funding is allocated through a competitive process; therefore, not all Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) administer the program.

Current Status

U.S. Department of Education has defined homeless youth as up to age 21, which is not specified in statute. That has created a “gap” for unaccompanied homeless youth trying to finish college who are 22 and 23 because until you are 24 years of age, you are not considered an independent student and therefore, not required to submit parental tax information in the FAFSA.

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

YouthBuild (P.L. 109-281)

YouthBuild was authorized as a federal program in 1992 under Subtitle D of Title IV of the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act. First authorized under the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the federal YouthBuild program was transferred to the US Department of Labor in 2006 and is administered by the Employment and Training Administration. Since 1992, DOL and HUD have awarded YouthBuild grants and contracts totaling over $1.2 billion to local community- and faith-based nonprofit organizations, and local government entities.8

Current Status

The federal appropriation for FY15 was $79.7 million.

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 (P.L. 105-220)

Employment training and academic support services for both youth in school and school dropouts ages 14 to 21. Eligible youth must be low-income and either deficient in basic literacy skills, a school dropout, homeless, a runaway, foster child, a parent, an offender, or an individual who needs additional assistance to complete an educational program or secure employment. Youth councils of local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) advise the boards about youth activities. WIBs are certified by the state to coordinate the workforce development activities of a particular area through a local workforce investment system.9

Current Status

In the FY 2014 Omnibus Bill WIA Adult Employment and Training was funded at $776,080 million and WIA Youth Activities were funded at $820,430 million.


1. National Conference of State Legislatures. (2011). The Affordable Care Act: Implications for Older Adolescents and Young Adults. Retrieved from:  ncsl.org/portals/1/documents/health/HRAdolescents.pdf.
2. U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey. (2011). Retrieved from: factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/searchresults.xhtml?refresh=t.
3. Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey. (2012). Virtual and Health Statistics. 10(254).
4. National Conference of State Legislatures. (2011). The Affordable Care Act: Implications for Adolescents and Young Adults. Retrieved from: ncsl.org/portals/1/documents/health/HRAdolescents.pdf.
5. ASPE tabulations from the CY 2011 ACS Public Use Microdata Sample were adjusted to exclude estimated undocumented persons based on imputations of immigrant legal status in ASPE’s TRIM3 microsimulation model. Includes currently eligible but not enrolled and those newly eligible in 2014. Retrieved from: aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2013/Adolescents/rb_adolescent.cfm.
6. SAMHSA. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. National Survey on Drug Use and Health. 2010 and 2011. Retrieved from:  samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2k11State/NSDUHsaeCountTabs2011.htm.
7. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Family Unification Program. Retrieved from: portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/public_indian_housing/programs/hcv/family.
8. YouthBuild U.S.A. The Federal YouthBuild Program. Retrieved from: youthbuild.org/federal-youthbuild-program.
9. The 109th Congress considered legislation (H.R. 27) to make the Youth Councils optional. For additional information, see CRS Report RL32778, The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA): Reauthorization of Job Training Programs in the 109th Congress, by Blake Alan Naughton and Ann Lordeman.